A week ago, I never dreamed I’d ever write about One Direction on my blog. Nevertheless, here I am about to devote nearly 1,000 words to perhaps the hottest boy band to grace planet earth since my own days as a boy-band-lovin’ teenage girl in the late 90s, and I can’t even call myself a fan because I only know one song.
And knowing one song does not a Directioner make, good groupies.
What I do know, however, is what it’s like to be a teenage girl who loves a band so damn much that when a member leaves or the band breaks up, it doesn’t just feel like the end of the world – it IS the end of the world.
That feeling is why I spent much of last Thursday afternoon annoyed with Twitter, and not because a good number of my readers I follow were posting their feelings over Zayn leaving the band.
I was annoyed with the bands and music fans I follow who were joking back and forth about the reaction (or what they thought was over reaction) to the 1D news.
They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? I kept reciting to myself as Tweet after Tweet passed by. To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.
But I do. Because I lived through it, and despite – or perhaps because of – being more than a decade removed from my teenage years, I can tell you why Zayn leaving One Direction matters so much to their fans and, more importantly, why bands matter so much to teenage girls:
It’s the music
Isn’t that what every band hopes for? A legion of fans who love their music so whole-heartedly they’ve memorized everything about it. The kind of fans who don’t just know all the words, they also know every drum beat, every guitar riff and every oh, ah and breath – even the mistakes and accidents caught on the recording. They know the exact length of the pause in the bridge of that one song and even nail it live.
A teenage girl’s favorite song isn’t just a piece of music with chords to play and beats to hit. It’s a fabric woven over her heart that she carries with her wherever she goes, making her who she is.
It’s the lyrics
Oh, the lyrics. Lyrics are everything to a teenage girl. They teach her about life. They help her discover who she is. They provide her a place to hide her pain and anger. They give her hope when it feels like there’s none.
Lyrics aren’t just lines to memorize and recite, like a class assignment. They’re statements of who she is – precious strings of words when sewn together are worthy of being tattooed up and down her arms or across her rib cage, always reminding her of their strength, as well as her own.
It’s her first love
For a teenage girl, her first band is her first love. After the music, she falls in love with the little things – the singer’s floppy hair cut that always falls in his eyes or the way the guitar player dresses. Those little things turn into crushes which turn into a bedroom plastered in posters and doodling “Mrs. Lead Singer” or “Mrs. Drummer” in the margin of class notes. (I was a Mrs. Drummer, for the record.)
A teenage girl isn’t thinking about the reality of becoming Mrs. Band Member. She’s dreaming of the possibility. Her heart completely captured with the rush of first love, the hope that when her precious ticket admits her into her first concert, her favorite band member will magically see her singing along in the audience – her face a clear expression of how much their music means to her – and he will pull her up on stage and whisk her away to a happily ever after.
As long as that possibility exists, she keeps dreaming.
It gives her a community
The thing about loving a band when you’re a teenage girl is this: no one around you understands. You’re lucky if your best friends are equally afflicted with loving the same band and music as you. But if they aren’t? Life is hell, and the world a lonely place.
So when she goes to a concert, and she is suddenly surrounded by people who feel the same way as her, she feels like she’s found her place, her home – where she belongs. She’s found her people, the community she belongs to and identifies with.
(And if you think about it – whether it’s your family, your work industry, your favorite sports team or your own favorite band…aren’t we all just looking for a community we can belong to?)
It’s simply in her DNA
There’s something unique about being a teenage girl – and even more unique about being a teenage girl who loves music. Once she has been sucked in by a lyric or melody, there’s no turning back. It flips a switch inside her, and life is forever changed. It’s like a gene she’s born with, and she simply have to wait for the right time for it to manifest inside of her.
She may outgrow it. Or she might carry it with her for life. (And do things like start music blogs because of it…) Whatever the case, there’s simply something inside of her that won’t allow her to quit loving music or bands. It is who she is, and she doesn’t know who she is without it.
Why it matters
Now imagine if a piece of that thing you love so wholly, so completely, broke off. Disappeared. Left forever.
It’s like you’re standing on the edge of a boat in the middle of the ocean, holding a precious piece of yourself until suddenly a wave knocks you off your feet. That piece of you goes spiraling out of your hands, out of your control, irretrievable. And all you can do is stand by helplessly and watch as it hits the surface of the ocean and plunges into its deep, dark oblivions, forever lost.
When you’re a teenage girl who loves a band, that’s what losing a band member feels like.
And that’s why Directioners are so heartbroken.
So maybe instead of cracking the easy joke, take a step back and take a deeper look, music fans.
Teenage girls are some of the most amazing music fans in the entire world for all the reason above and more. And we should all give them a little love right now. They’re hurting and could use a little pep talk from their fellow music fans – esp. those of us who have loved and lost bands that meant everything.
A pep talk from your big sis, Good Groupie
So here’s mine: things aren’t okay right now, Directioners. I know. And they probably won’t be for awhile. After experiencing three particularly hard band break ups over the past eight years – and after living through two days of sheer panic that I was going to completely lose one of my favorite bands of all time two years ago – I have to admit to you that band break ups never get easier.
But there’s something you should know – this is part of the music fan experience, and we, as music fans, have all lost band members or entire bands in the blink of an eye. It’s just part of this crazy music world we live in and love.
I know that doesn’t make things easier right now, but I can promise you this: you’ll get through this. Soon it will hurt a little less each day, Soon your hearts will start to heal. You won’t forget what happened, won’t forget your loss…but it’ll get better.
Until then, cry your eyes out. Blare your music. Swear to beat up Zayn for hurting you if you ever meet him in a dark alley. Whatever makes it easier, do it. It’s part of the process.
And until then, know that your big sis Good Groupie over here is sending you lots and lots of hugs.
Much love from a former teenage girl
who loved (and still loves) bands,